IBM Software Support Handbook - Getting IBM support

Software Support Handbook

Getting IBM Support

Recommendation for mid and large-range Customers

IBM prides itself on delivering world class software support with highly skilled, Customer-focused people. However, IBM support can never take the place of your company's internal help desk. Many successful companies have found the best way to interact with IBM software support is through a cadre of highly skilled and trained employees who understand their company's environment and act in conjunction with their internal help desk. These senior staff members are able to filter, sort, and prioritize their company's problems and direct them toward the best resource (IBM and non-IBM) for resolution. These are the people who become authorized contacts to collaborate with IBM software support for fast resolution of IBM problems as well as assuming a similar role with other vendors. We encourage you to adopt such a structure, if you haven't already, as it will help us secure the success of your IBM solutions.

Before contacting IBM Software Support

To resolve your software support service request in the most expedient way possible, it is important that you take the following steps before you contact a software support center. You will need to gather information about the problem and have it on hand when discussing the situation with the software support specialist. The following steps are an example of what is required:

Define the problem

If you can describe the problem and symptoms before contacting software support, you can expedite the problem solving process. It is very important to be as specific as possible when explaining a problem or question to our software support specialists. Our specialists want to give you the right solution, so, the better they understand your specific problem, the better they are able to resolve it.

Gather background information

To solve problems effectively, the software support specialist needs to have all of the relevant information about the problem. Your ability to answer the following questions will help us to solve your software problem.

Gather relevant diagnostic information (if possible)

It is often necessary that our software support specialists analyze specific diagnostic information, such as relevant logs, storage dumps, traces, etc., in order to resolve your problem. Gathering this information is often the most critical step in resolving your problem. Product specific diagnostic documentation can be very helpful in identifying what information is typically required to resolve problems. If you are unsure about what documentation is required, visit the IBM Support Assistant (ISA) page. After installing the software, try searching on MustGather and the product with which you are having trouble.  Not all products will have an ISA plug-in available but you may find additional information on the individual product support page under troubleshooting.  You can always contact software support for assistance in gathering the needed diagnostic information.

Determine the severity level

Severity levels are determined during a mutual discussion between you and the support analyst, based on the business impact of the issue. If you designate a problem as a Severity 1, IBM will work on it 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, providing you are also available to work during those hours.
Note: On a severity 1 problem if you are not available to work 7x24 the support analyst will likely discuss lowering the severity until you are available or to match your business impact.

Customers can change the severity level of a problem if circumstances change from when it was first entered to match current business impact conditions.

The following table defines severity levels and provides some examples.

Severity level situations and examples
LevelDefinitionExamples
Severity 1 Critical Impact/System Down: Business critical software component is inoperable or critical interface has failed. This usually applies to a production environment and indicates you are unable to use the program resulting in a critical impact on operations. This condition requires an immediate solution.
Note: We will work with you 7x24 to resolve critical problems providing you have a technical resource available to work during those hours.
Severity 2 Significant business impact: A software component is severely restricted in its use or you are in jeopardy of missing business deadlines because of problems with a new application rollout.
  • All users of an application receive an error when attempting to access a service.
Severity 3 Some business impact; Indicates the program is usable with less significant features (not critical to operations) unavailable.
  • A client cannot connect to a server
Severity 4 Minimal business impact: A non-critical software component is malfunctioning, causing minimal impact, or a non-technical request is made.

When communicating with a software support specialist, you should also mention the following items if they apply to your situation:

Accessing Software Support

When submitting a problem to IBM Software Support about a particular service request, please have the following information ready:

Submitting problems electronically

Through the IBM Support Portal or IBM Services site(s), you may post support questions and problems electronically to the IBM support specialists with the best skills for your request. Prior to submitting a problem via the Internet you will need the same information as if you were reporting a problem by telephone. This capability allows you to put all of the pertinent information about your problem into the problem record via the Internet without having to wait for someone to call you back. This should save you time and help with problem resolution time. Refer to the Contacts section for more information on the tools available to submit problems electronically.

If you are submitting or updating a severity one problem or raising the severity of an existing problem to severity one and it is outside of normal business hours in your country you should open your problem by voice or follow-up your web submission with a call to your local support center referencing the problem number you receive on the web. We want to ensure that your emergency call will be handled appropriately.

Voice access

IBM Voice Support is available for most Series z platform software products and to all current support contract holders through a Single Point of Contact (SPOC) telephone number in your country (where available). You will be required to provide your IBM Customer Number for validation of the support service to which you are entitled to as well as the product about which you are calling. Please refer to IBM's Planetwide Site for specific country phone numbers.  In most cases, we provide native language support.

Response objectives

Please note: IBM will use commercially reasonable efforts to respond to service requests from your authorized contacts within the criteria shown below. Our initial response may result in resolution of your request, or it will form the basis for determining what additional actions may be required to achieve technical resolution of your request.  Depending on the complexity of your request, the next response may take days.  Be sure you and your support rep agree on what the next action is and when the next checkpoint will be.  Also note that severity 2,3, and 4 problems reported offshift will be queued for the next business day.

Support Center Hours (IBM prime shift business hours)

IBM Support Center hours cover the prevailing business hours in the country where your product is licensed and/or your contract is registered. You should keep this in mind if you are considering outsourcing your operation or help desk to a firm that is overseas or working in another time zone.  (There could be a few exception for countries where M - F is not their normal work week or business working time is not the same as for your Country due to different time zones. In those cases contact your Business Partner/Reseller or IBM Sales Rep to get your hours of coverage).

Distributed systems (with Subscription and Support and/or Support Line prime shift support services offerings)

When you contact software support to report a problem or update/get status on a problem, your request will be routed to a software support specialist. IBM's goal is to respond to your service request within two business hours during prime shift, and within two hours during offshift hours for critical problems.

SeverityImpactResponse goal
1Critical business impactWithin two hours
2Significant business impactWithin two business hours
3Some business impactWithin two business hours
4Minimum business impactWithin two business hours
 

System z Platform response objectives  (improved responsiveness is available to Customers requiring it, through services offerings)

For problems reported against Monthly License Charge (MLC) (i.e., System z) software products, IBM's response objectives continue to be based upon the severity of the request. The following table describes these objectives.

SeverityImpactResponse goal
1Critical business impactWithin two hours
2Significant business impactWithin four business hours
3Some business impactBy the end of the next business day
4Minimum business impactBy the end of the next business day

For Q&A, handled under a services contract, the response goal is 2 hours for all severities.

Offshift support

During Off shift hours we will use commercially reasonable efforts to respond, by telephone, within two hours to service requests which you specify to be Customer Critical problems (severity 1). Normal country business hours are defined by your time zone and the prevailing business hours within your country, e.g.: 8:00am to 5:00pm in North America or 9:00am to 6:00pm in some parts of Asia and Europe, Monday through Friday, except national holidays. Offshift hours are defined as all other hours outside of normal country business hours. Offshift support will be provided in English however, we will try to accommodate local language where possible. An appropriately skilled technical person from your site must be available to work with IBM's technical support staff during the entire time we are performing support services outside of normal country business hours. IBM recommends that you use voice or place a follow-up call to the local support center with the electronic PMR/Service Request number. This action helps to ensure a prompt response.

How your Service Request is handled by IBM Software Support

You may submit your request for assistance by using the IBM Support Portal or Services Site or by contacting IBM directly by telephone (where available and entitled) see Contacts section.  These requests are logged into the IBM problem management system.

Once logged, a unique Service Request record (PMR) is created. Please make note of this Service Request number, Incident number, or Support Case number and use it in any future communication on this issue with the support center. Your Service Request is routed to a resolution team for handling.. A resolution team is simply a group of software support specialists. You may be transferred directly to the resolution team or your issue will be placed in a queue for response. In either case, the next person to contact you will be a specialist in the appropriate resolution team.

At the resolution team level your Service Request is researched, resolved, or escalated as appropriate. Due to the level of specialization required to maintain superior technical expertise at the team level, it is sometimes necessary to involve more than one support team in resolving a particular software problem. This is easily handled, as our support teams are all networked together and work as one to resolve whatever problems or issues arise.

In order to investigate the issue, IBM may need to access information on your system relative to the failure, or may need to recreate the failure to get additional information. Should the problem be configuration related, it is possible you may need to recreate the problem to get that required information. Our software support specialists may request that you send in the problem information or test cases or that they be able to view it with you electronically. To accomplish this, you may be offered several options by the IBM support specialist.  See Exchanging Information with IBM Technical Support later in this handbook for more information on the options available. 

IBM may also recommend reviewing the problem information or test cases on-line by setting up a remote session. To accomplish this, IBM has two approved tools; Assist On-site (AOS) and SmartCloud. While other tools may exist, IBM discourages their use since our support people are not trained on them nor can IBM take responsibility for the security of your data with these other vendor tools. 

How a code defect is handled by support

During this investigation process, the Resolution Team determines if your defect issue falls into one of three categories as described below.

  1. A known defect-related issue: If the Resolution Team determines that the issue is the result of a software defect that has previously been reported, the following actions may be taken:
  2. A new defect: If the Resolution Team determines that the issue is the result of an IBM software defect that has not been reported before, we will work with you to create an Authorized Program Analysis Report (APAR) or Software Problem Report (SPR) to track the resolution of the defect. These APAR's and SPRs are routed to the appropriate development teams.

    The development teams analyze the APAR or SPR to determine how the defect will be addressed. One of a number of fix related activities may result:
  3. A problem that is not defect-related: If the Resolution Team determines that the issue is not a software defect in supported IBM code, we will continue to work the problem to resolution only at your request and with your concurrence, under a separate services agreement.

How technical questions (how-to/install) are handled by support

For Clients with the appropriate services offerings

Technical question support allows you to obtain assistance from IBM for product specific, task-oriented questions regarding the installation and operation of currently supported IBM software. In the course of providing answers to your technical questions, we may refer you to product documentation or publications, or we may be able to provide a direct answer to assist you in the following areas:

Short duration problems involving

Subscription and Support and Support Line are not structured to address everything -- the following are examples of areas that are beyond their scope:

Most of these types of situations require some form of Advanced Support Offering. For further information about these services please contact your IBM Representative who can help direct you to resources who can discuss your needs.

Problem handling best practices

We have found that the following practices, help us to ensure we can provide the most timely resolution to your question or problem.

Your responsibilities

IBM does not warrant that our products are defect free, however we do endeavor to fix them to work as designed. You may be surprised to learn you play a key role in this effort. Our remote software support is available to provide you assistance and guidance, however we assume that you will provide information about your system and the failing component, information that is key to resolving the problem.

This information includes capturing documentation at the time of a failure, applying a trap or trace code to your system, possibly formatting the output from the trap or trace, and sending documentation or trace information, in hardcopy or soft copy, to the remote support center. You are also responsible for obtaining fixes, by downloading or by receiving ones that have been shipped to you on media, applying the fixes to your systems and testing the fixes to ensure they meet your needs. Occasionally, removal of installed fixes may be necessary in the process of isolating problems. And sometimes fixing a problem will mean the installation of a later release of the software as some fixes cannot be retrofitted into earlier code.

You need to be aware of your responsibilities when working with an IBM support center. If you do not have the required skill or are unwilling to do the work, you can engage a services provider such as IBM Global Services (IGS) or a business partner to assist you, for an additional fee. If you are involved in a services engagement in which IGS or a Business Partner is designing and implementing an application for you, you should suggest that the statement of work be very clear as to whose responsibility it is to work suspected code defect issues with IBM, to ensure proper entitlement for remote support.

Submitting a product requirement

Sometimes what appeared to be a defect turns out to be “working as designed” (or “broken as designed” as some Customers phrase it).  In that case you need to open a product requirement.  You can search for requirements similar to yours or open a new requirement through IBM's Request for Enhancement (RFE) Community.  Opening an RFE allows you to communicate directly with product management and community peers.

Escalation procedure

We believe IBM Support is "Best of Breed." If at any point in our service process, you feel we are not meeting our commitments to you (as outlined in this handbook), you may call our attention to this problem by doing one or all of the following:

  1. Be certain to explain the business impact of your problem to the service representative
  2. Raise the Severity Level of the problem
  3. Ask to speak to the person's manager - Escalations to an IBM manager will receive prompt attention and management focus.  You can find contact numbers for your geographic area in the IBM Directory of worldwide contacts.
  4. Ask for a "Duty Manager" - The Duty Manager or field manager will work with our technical staff to ensure your request is being handled appropriately.
  5. After allowing the Duty Manager time to make an impact, if further escalation is required then open a Complaint or nominate as a Critical Situation ("CritSit"), if warranted, by asking any member of your IBM Client team to do so on your behalf.

Survey

After your problem has been closed, you may be randomly selected to participate in a web survey to determine your satisfaction with the way your problem was handled. The survey focuses on three elements; ease of opening the problem, remote support, and overall.

As I said earlier in this book, I think IBM has the best software support in the industry, and our support teams are judged on the overall scores. Quite frankly, anything less than "very satisfied" says they haven't delivered to my promise to you. Be honest with your rating, but try to focus on the service you were given and the competence and helpfulness of the individual or individuals involved in the problem

Support terms

Acronyms

Additional references

Handbook in PDF format

The handbook is also available as a PDF-formatted document. The current version is dated November, 2014.

Other languages

The handbook has been translated into the following languages.

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